What did the Karankawa eat?

Short Answer: The most important food sources for the Karankawaswere scallops, oysters, buffalo, deer, various plants like cattail and dewberries, and fish like red and black drum, trout, and sheepshead.

Long Answer: What the Karankawa ate varied depending on the season. During the summer months, the Karankawas focused on larger game like deer and buffalo; while in the colder months, the Karankawa focused on marine resources like fish and shellfish. This is not to say that the Karankawas neglected hunting mammals during the winter or neglected fishing during the summer, rather these resources were not as nutritionally economic.

This seasonal availability of food created a push and pull factor that, in large part, is responsible for the millennium-long semi-nomadic lifestyle of the Karankawas. In the fall and winter, the aquatic resources were more abundant and the Karankawa were more active on barrier islands and around the bays. In the spring and summer, with the influx of the buffalo and with fruits becoming ripe, the Karankawas moved further inland. This roaming lifestyle allowed the Karankawas to encounter other inland Indian tribes who together cooperatively hunted buffalo and traded information, goods, and possibly blows.

Karankawa Trade

Karankawa Palate

Overtime I’ll be adding onto this list as I encounter more plants and animals in my reading or in archaeological write-ups.

Larger Game and Non-Fish Fish and Shellfish Plants
Most Found at Archaeological Sites:

  • White Tailed Deer
  • Buffalo

Lesser Found at Archaeological Sites:

  • Bobcat
  • Duck
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Rabbit
  • Turtle
  • Dolphin and Porpoise
  • Opossum
  • Raccoon
  • Coyote
  • Wolf
  • Various Shore Birds
  • Javelina
  • Prairie Dog
  • Turtle and Tortoises
  • Bear
  • Snake
  • Alligator
  • Lizard/Salamanders
  • Spider (From primary sources)
  • Shrew
  • Skunk
  • Rat
  • Gopher
  • Rays
  • Frog/Toads
  • Whale
  • Squirrel
Most Found at Archaeological Sites:

  • Scallops
    • Atlantic bay scallop
  • Oysters
    • Eastern oyster
    • Horse oyster
  • Red and Black Drum
  • Speckled Sea-trout
  • Sheepshead

Lesser Found at Archaeological Sites:

  • Catfish
  • Gar
  • Croaker
  • Flounder
  • Mullet
  • Shark
  • Mollusks
    • Hooked mussel
  • Quahog
  • Sea Snails/Whelk
    • Shark-eye
    • Banded Tulips
    • Cockle
    • Apple Murex
    • Pear whelk
    • Lightning whelk
  • Conch
    • Florida Horse Conch
  • Clam
    • Transverse ark
    • Sunray venus
    • Cross-barred venus
    • Texas quahog
  • Crayfish
  • Crabs
    • Including the easy to obtain hermit crabs


Most mentioned in Primary Sources:

  • Cattail Roots
  • Berries (Black, Dew, Mulberry)
  • Nuts
  • Oak Acorns
  • Prickly Pear Tuna

Others Mentioned in Primary Sources:

  • Granjeno Fruit
  • Anacua Berries
  • Mesquite Beans

More coming soon…









3 thoughts on “What did the Karankawa eat?

  1. I’m interested in the Karankawa wolves. I know the tribe used them in hunting. There have been recent airings along the coast of red pups in dens. Do you have more information on them?


  2. I know this is being particular but just a note. There were no buffalo in the Americas, only bison. I know its technical as most refer to the American Bison as a buffalo. Just my 2 cents.


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